Tommy Hunter, Darren O'Day debate who's better at catching HRs in bullpen

Orioles right-handed relievers Darren O'Day and Tommy Hunter have been good friends for years. They even have vacationed together in the offseason.

But there is a friendly rivalry brewing between the two, caused by bullpen-homer-gate.

In the fifth inning Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays, first baseman Chris Davis launched a home run to left-center field. The ball was headed toward the visiting team's bullpen at Camden Yards when Hunter jumped up and caught it for a highlight that was listed among ESPN's top 10 plays of the day.

"I didn't want the other team to get the ball," Hunter said. "So I flew like an eagle, soared. Through the clouds to reach epic heights."

O'Day wasn't impressed with Hunter's glove work, though, finding it to be less than worthy of his own home-run snagging prowess.

"How about when I barehanded a home run ball, how about that?" O'Day said, calling up video of his two-handed catch of a bullpen home run against the Kansas City Royals earlier this year.

Hunter snapped back: "You cradled it like an old man, like a grandpa catching it for his grandson, against his body."

O'Day showed more evidence of his mastery: a video of him leaping at the second bullpen wall while outstretching former Orioles reliever Luis Ayala for the souvenir.

Yes, O'Day probably is the undisputed home-run-catching champion in club history.

But Hunter believes he is more than just a challenger now. He believes he is in possession of proof of his superiority. After catching Davis' home run, he had the Orioles slugger sign it.

Davis included the inscription: "Greatest HR catch. EVER."

"Ever," Hunter reiterated emphatically.

Hunter also explained why a reliever would be wearing a glove in the bullpen in the fifth inning, and it also speaks to the Hunter-O’Day rivalry. Hunter’s glove was behind him on the bullpen bench, but when Davis hit the ball, Hunter saw O’Day put on his glove. So Hunter did the same thing.

“The ball was hit, and I saw Darren, and I saw him turn around and reach for something. And I was like, ‘He is going to try and catch this,’ “ Hunter said. “So Darren gave me a little bump, I bumped him again, got him out of the way, cleared a spot and went over the bullpen [wall].”

Hunter landed on a catcher’s mask and stumbled, but he said he quickly recovered and “mean mugged” for the camera. He then got a high-five from, of all people, O’Day.

“I would put [Saturday] night right up there on my list, at least Top 3, [of] greatest moments ever,” Hunter said, “Just for the fact I got to knock Darren out of the way and prove my catch was better.”

With six starters, club has options

The Orioles plan to activate right-hander Miguel Gonzalez on Tuesday to start against the Tampa Bay Rays, which technically gives the club six starters, though manager Buck Showalter has maintained that he would prefer a five-man rotation.

One solution the manager mentioned was rotating starters into bullpen roles. That could prove particularly viable with right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who is slotted to pitch Friday against the New York Yankees, but has a 6.67 ERA in five career starts against the American League East foe.

"Anybody, not just Ubaldo, if there's a need. He's capable of [pitching out of the bullpen]," Showalter said.